Wishlist 2005: Smart Scares

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As Dorian pointed out a few months back, there seems to be a mini-trend going on in horror movies right now: movies that are more concerned with story, character, tone and actually scaring the audience, rather than just grossing them out or making them shut their brains off.

I really, really want to see more of this kind of movie in 2005.

Movies like Darkness, The Grudge, The Machinist, White Noise, and a handful of others are all great examples of this trend.

Now, as that list should make obvious, using characters and acting and script to create an effect doesn’t automatically translate into a good movie. Darkness was dreadful, White Noise was beyond abysmal.

Still, it’s great to see filmmakers and studios reaching for more than just an easy scare, a cheap script, and buckets of blood when they think of horror.

(Interestingly, most of these movies are PG-13, not R. Just a few short years ago I would have scoffed at any horror movie not rated R. After all, what’s the point without the blood and gore? Well, I see the point now – it’s story, acting, brains. Not that they’re mutually exclusive, of course. Still, think of some great PG or PG-13 horror movies: The Ring, Poltergeist, Jaws. That’s proof right there that you don’t need buckets of blood to make a big impact.)

Maybe if we can get more smart scares in 2005, we show that mature, intelligent, thoughtful horror can be just as powerful a force (and an infinitely more interesting one) than whatever it is that’s supposed to drive teenagers to the multiplex this weekend.

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